Laurien van der Graaff: Star Who Breaks With Conventions

“…no, I don’t like it all” confirms Laurien – and laughs heartily.

You know what makes Laurien van der Graaff different from the rest (most – not all) top level ski sprinters?

She’s mellow.

Now soft, not slow – mellow, relaxed, polite, smiley. And very pleasant to talk to.

Not enough has been said or written so far about differences between traditional, distance skiing – and that of ski sprints.

Distance skiers spend long hours doing well, distance skiing, Or rollerskiing. Or running. More time for self-reflection, for finding one’s own zen.

Sprint is one tough business. You give it all out going uphill – then accelerate, often risking, downhill and cutting tight turns. Plus pushing and shoving, sometimes very literally, against your competitors. And, of course, unpredictability – one wrong move on your own or, worse, one step on your poles by a competitor – and you are out of contention.

Not all ski sprinters are aggressive, but many are. Try saying Hello to a sprinter on her/his way to the starting lane – you’d be given an angry look as a greeting-back ( or even spat at – even that happens, literally!).

Laurien is very different – perhaps, that’s why she’s liked so much on the skiing circuit.

It all changes, however, when she gets on the starting lane….

Things to know about Ms van der Graaff

– In PyeongChang Laurien will run individual sprint, relay and (possibly) 10k race. Her biggest chance, however, is in team sprint freestyle together with Nadine Fähndrich

– She trains about 850 hours a year – quite a lot for “pure sprinter”

– van der Graaff parents moved to Switzerland when she was 4. She speaks Dutch at home.

– Laurien is fairly rare bird among actively competing elite skiers – she’s bachelor of arts & sciences in biology and sport, got her diploma after studying in Zurich and in Norway.

– Andreas Waldmeier is Laurien’s coach, boyfriend – and visual artist of note in Switzerland and internationally with his own studios at home in Davos and Zurich. When Laurien is not training or competing, she helps Andreas to organize his exhibitions

Davos. Place Laurien calls home

In her own words:
” The Game of the sprint is not only about your current strenght or physical form – it’s also a bit about luck. You plan right, you’re being smart on the distance – and suddenly you see a free space to move into and you go for a win. Then again, sometimes you get best shape ever – but finish last . I like that it is so unpredictable”

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” In skating I feel free. You can work tactically and watch other people. More of a game. In classic race you have your tracks and have to run in them – it’s not as tactical as in skating”

” I am at the level when I can do tough uphill course and flatter city sprints. It does not matter anymore. Earlier I was happier with shorter courses – now it does not matter”

“Standardization of distance is important. I do best with sprints that last, on average, around 3 minutes – and not soo well with those long, 4 minute ones”

WAHNSINN Laurien van der Graaff in LOVE!!!! Weltcupsieg ist Historisch… wir verneigen uns und sind Mega Stolz!!!

Posted by Fans4Laurien on Saturday, December 30, 2017

“Lenzerheide is my favorite track – not because that’s where I finally won, but I like the profile of the track and I like the cheering crowd. Lots of people, stadium athmosphere – that matters a lot”

” Can’t name the toughest sprint track – but if I had to choose it probably be Davos, because it’s on altitude and you have to pace it right. Overpacing over there costs you at the end”

” I have not been to Pyeongchang. But it bothers me that the sprint track is a bit long there . It should be like we have it in most places – 3’00 ” to 3’30” from start to finish.If we then suddenly have to do 4’00” at the Olympics – it’s not fair. Training is different for 3 and for 4 minutes. In that situation the girls who also run distance races will have an advantage: Stina ( Nillson), Maiken ( Caspersen Falla ) – they for sure will be top contenders at the Olympics.”

” I keep working and believing, keep telling myself “I’ll try it for another year and if I see improvents – I’ll carry on, if not – I shall quit” . Last year or so I felt that my technique, my body were ready to win – but mentally I was not ready. It might sound weird, but I was afraid to win. I had to work on trying to figure out why is that like that. – and I finally won my first World Cup race”

“I am not a fan of treadmill training. I much prefer training outside. Treadmill training is a different philosophy. Also, for many years I’m not training with the rest of the Swiss team – I have my own mini team.”

“Just like Swedes, the Swiss team does a lot of Olympic tracks simulation on treadmill, it’s useful. Still, for me skiing is very different from rollerskis on treadmill: air temperature snow conditions, waxing – so many variables in actual skiing. – on treadmill it’s ever the same. I only do it when we go for functional tests – do it and get out of there as soon as I can. ”

” I was studying in Zurich and then realized that if I want to go further in cross country skiing I have make another step so I went to Norway…I was studying and training for two and half years. It’s not very common in cross country skiing– but it’s because it’s hard to be professinal skier, to train so much and study full time.

“Andreas does my training plans and controls all my training regimen, but at the beginning he was only my ski technique coach … Lots of people asking how does it work between us – happy to tell, it’s working very well. It took a year for us to find a way of communicating properly but now it’s working really well. Despite him occasionally being really hard on me…”

“…Last year in Toblach I came seventh I was very disappointed and Andreas was totally straight with me as to what I’ve done wrong.It probably wasn’t something that one wants at that moment but, the key point is,  what he said helped on the long run.

“Andreas is not only a coach – he’s an artist, painter – I help him with organizing events and exhibitions. No, I’m not his model ( laughs) . The arts world, it’s totally different yet in some ways it’s so similar to professional sport. There I’ve learned to listen to different opinions and different points of view. It helps in performance and technique…I guess I’m a bit of philosopher. We had to learn a lot together with Andreas and try things and find our own way.”

“Events like Skiwelcup Dresden, it helps in developping the sport of cross cointry skiing. Especially in middle Europe. In Norway, in Scandinavia everybody gets skiing – but here, city sprints help people to develop a taste for xc skiing – it’s a simple show to watch, skiers doing short sprint laps…And hopefully to get skiing themselves and their kids.”

” IBU, the International Biathlon Union, is doing a great job – they plan ahead,so everybody knows that the second weekend of January there will a World Cup stage in Ruhpolding. It’s important that calender is stable and this venue or that knows they will hold WC races four years in a row – and develop infrastructure etc. If you have experience of staging it for 30 years – most of the problems are sorted out.”|

” My fan club is not as big as Dario’s who’s fans go everywhere to support him, but there are about a hundred people who cheer and support me. My fan club’s visually distinct because they all have orange scarfs as a trubute to my Dutch lineage – it’s easy to spot them through those scarfs. Mixed Dutch-Swiss affair.”

“Being a celebrity is not for me, but I’m seeing it coming more and more with younger skiers. When I was young, doing cross country skiing meant that you were not the coolest kid around. Today’s young ones – they are really living it, they are really proud to be skiers. And some male skiers are all attraction for girl-fans now ( smiles as a certain young Norwegian star walks by)

“People like Petter Northug, rock stars of our sports, are really good for promoting it. We need more like this…In Switzerland Dario is big, but I like Northug’s style more – it’s really funny what he is doing. I watch Northug TV and I love it. My own? No, you have to be the right type!”

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